Hi, my name is Huong Tran (Victoria) and I am a marriage and family therapist, educated and trained in Pasadena and Los Angeles,USA. You may find more information about my credentials and work experience on the next page of this website, under the tap “Huong Tran (Victoria), MSMFT” of this website. If you are considering therapy for the first time, the following information is for you.
What is this loaded word called THERAPY? It is commonly assumed that you need to find a “good” therapist to solve your problems. But, that’s not enough. Research has shown that the effectiveness of therapy depends on three key factors: 1) the client, 2) the expertise of the therapist and 3) the therapist-client relationship. So basically, the effectiveness of therapy depends on the work between you and your therapist.
How do you determine the effectiveness of therapy? Your part of the “work” refers to everything that you contribute to the therapy process, including the issue that you want to work on, your perspectives on your situation, your commitment to work on the therapeutic goals, and your expectation of the therapy process. Is your issue important enough for you to commit financially and emotionally to weekly therapy sessions? Therapy can be an arduous process, in which you may unearth past painful experiences and allow yourself to feel before you get healed. It can also be a rewarding experience but requires you to practice new communication skills and behavior on a daily basis. It is also important to consider how much faith you have in therapy? Do you believe that therapy can help increase self-knowledge, clarity, authenticity and improve relationships? Do you respect and trust therapists? It is not effective if you engage in therapy half-heartedly.
How important is your therapist’s expertise? When it comes to trusting therapists, there are at least two factors you may want to consider: the partnership between you and your therapist and their expertise. Many do not know the difference between a psychiatrist, a marriage and family therapist, a psychologist, and a counselor. It is helpful to discuss the type of degrees and training your therapist acquired in their country. Your therapist’s field of work and experience will tell whether they can help you with your issue. For instance, a therapist who does not specialize in family therapy may not be the right therapist for couple therapy. Couple and family therapy is a completely different field of work that requires post-graduate degrees in marital and family therapy coupled with years of clinical work under supervision. In the States of California, students of the Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy (MSMFT) program are required to receive a placement at a qualified mental health care organization and complete hundreds of client hours under supervision before they are allowed to graduate. Graduates of the MSMFT program will then have to apply for internships and complete 3000 supervised hours before they can sit for a state licensure exam. That’s thousands of hours working with clients before they can apply for the State licensure. The process is also very vigorous for clinical psychologists which requires a 5-6 years Psych program, internship and licensure exam. I am aware that the requirements are very different in other parts of the world. In certain countries, including Europe, graduates of a Bachelor degree in Psychology are allowed to see clients right after graduation. It is important for you to discuss qualifications with your therapist before committing to the process.
Is it advisable to see a marriage and family therapist for anxiety and depression? Absolutely! Issues that may seem individual may be a product of a larger story. For instance, it might be helpful to reflect on whether your anxiety and depressive symptoms may have something to do with certain key relationships in your life, or the connection between you and society in general. In addition, your marriage and family therapists also help you make sense of certain key events in your life, learn and practice coping skills, ways to manage anxiety and stress, and improve communication skills to connect with the people in your life more effectively…etc
Many assume that children with behavioral or emotional issues need to see child psychologists. It is not always the case. Family therapists always look for a larger story, the larger system in which one operates, including the relational system your child is in. They also help to maximize all the help your child can get including key relationships. For instance, if your child does not pay attention in class, does not get along well with other children, and you receive regular complaints from teachers, family therapists would assess the history and development of such issues. If the child has shown attention deficit and behavioral issues since she was 2 or 3, I would refer the child to a psychiatrist to rule out ADHD and the need for medication, and concurrently work with parents on specific parenting skills that are suitable for the child. They help parents use their relationship with the child and parenting skills to encourage behavior changes.
Is couple therapy right for your? If you recognize recurring problems in your relationship that prevent you from having a loving connection with your partner and both are willing and committed to improving your relationship, then couple therapy is suitable for you*. I assist couples identify positive and negative relationship patterns and explore ways to connect with each other. So what is considered as a “good” relationship? Does it mean that you do not argue at all? Not necessarily. Research has shown that happy couples argue like most couples do. But what set them aside is the way they repair and re-connect after an argument. They are able to clearly express their vulnerabilities and respond to the emotional signals of their partner. The benefits gained from improved relationship is long lasting and affects almost all aspects of your life. A strong loving relationship promotes individual growth and self-actualization and is linked to a coherent positive sense of self (Ruvolo & Jobson Brennen, 1997).
*Please note that I do not recommend couple therapy if: 1) there is domestic violence (emotional or physical abuse) in the relationship 2) one or both of the parties contemplate to leave the relationship 3) one of the parties seeks therapy to “fix” the other party 4) one of the parties is not willing to engage in couple therapy but feels forced to.
Family therapy might be the most effective option if you notice your child regularly has problems at school, appears anxious and depressed most of the time, or when your marital conflict starts to affect your child. When working with children and adolescents, parental involvement in therapy is essential because parents are the biggest support system they have. In addition, children adjust and thrive better when parents are able to understand their emotional signals and create more opportunities for bonding.Whichever type of therapy you choose, it is important to note that practicing new skills yields the best results in meeting goals.
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